Persistent felony offenders adding to 'revolving prison door'

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - He says the victims are the ones paying the price. The Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney is speaking out against what he calls the 'revolving prison door.'

Ray Larson says new statistics show a few repeat offenders are responsible for the bulk of crime in Lexington, and the laws allowing it need to change, including the 'catch and release' bill.

The Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney starts off every week the same way.

"We go over the persistent felony charges from the past week," said Ray Larson, the Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney. "I get fired up every Monday when I get this thing."

The report breaks down various numbers. Like last week, 10 persistent felony offenders, who were back on the street, were arrested. And their total of prior convictions is 168, making the average per defendant nearly 17 convictions. It's even more alarming when you look at the numbers so far in 2013.

"In 2013, that group of 316 has a total of 4,831 prior criminal convictions. Again, I say they're felonies and misdemeanors," said Larson.

Since the Commonwealth's Attorney started keeping track of these numbers back in 1997, 4,222 persistent felony offenders have been arrested with nearly 60,000 prior convictions between them.

Larson tells us that property-related crimes are the most repeated by felony offenders. Mimi Phan is an example of that statistic. Since 1996, Phan has been arrested 29 times, mainly charged with theft by unlawful taking. Her crime of choice is shoplifting. Phan's criminal past only supports the Commonwealth's Attorney's argument: the 'revolving prison door' has worsened.

"The risk of being punished has never been lower than it is in Kentucky right now," said Larson. "And they know it. Criminals aren't stupid."

So what's the Commonwealth's Attorney's advice? Focus on the five percent committing 60 to 80 percent of the crime on our streets.

"You bet I get fired up because victims are getting the shaft again," said Larson.

Of the 10 persistent felony offenders arrested last week, two were violent charges, three were property-related, three were drug-related, one being fleeing and evading police, and one other being failure to comply with sex offender registration.

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